On Sunday I ran the Virgin Sport #British10k as part of the #Westminster100 team. It was a very special morning so I wanted to share it in a blog.
It’s 100 year since The Suffragettes secured voting equality for women in Britain but sadly this isn’t the picture around the world. According to the International Federation for Electoral Systems (IFES) there are parts of the world where women are four times more likely than men to be prevented from voting by the use of abuse, intimidation and physical violence at polling stations. Women may be banned from voting without the permission of their husbands and threatened with divorce if they vote differently. Women in Pakistan were given the vote in 1956 but many are still prevented from voting or feel unable to do so. The female election turnout in some parts of Pakistan was as low as 3%. UNWomen is working to change that and to ensure that ALL women have the fundamental right to vote. They champion equality and empowerment of women and girls from ensuring their basic needs of safety, education and health care are met through to equal representation in political and economic decisions.
Virgin Sport created the Westminster 100 team, headed by Holly Branson to bring together influential women and men to raise awareness and funds for UNWomenUK. I was honoured to be invited to be part of this team. For me it made the event extra special. My work with 261 Fearless is centred around using running as a tool to bring empowerment to women around the world. The most recent #261GameChanger project that I am involved with is taking running to some very troubled communities where women don’t enjoy the privilege of just being able to go out for a run. To run in support of UNWomen was such an opportunity for me to learn more about this amazing organisation.
Race day itself started with a bit of a hiccup as my train into London was ‘delayed until further notice’ due to a broken down replacement bus service which it was supposed to connect with. Don’t you love our public transport network?! I did however make it just on time to register, meet the team and get my UNWomen sash.
I was really pleased that my friend, colleague and TV Dr, Zoe Williams was also on the team. She admitted that she wasn’t a regular runner but she is super fit and her Amazonian legs are literally twice as long as mine!
We made our way to the start line for a team photo alongside Dame Kelly Holmes and Holly Branson.
There was the usual spine tingling excitement as the starting klaxon went off.
It was HOT, with temperatures almost up to 30 degrees. I’d already decided that this was not going to be a PB day so Zoe and I set out to take it steady and enjoy ourselves. We were joined by Fitness Blogger Elle Linton and Sports Broadcaster Alison Mitchell as we made our way along the route passing landmarks such as Westminster Abbey and Trafalgar Square. It was so easy to spot the Westminster100 team with their sashes and we cheered and encouraged each other on.
Support on the course was excellent with the biggest boosts coming from the musicians; kettle drums to jazz bands, they had us clapping and waving our arms. Lots of water stops, one with electrolytes (which was very welcomed) and some mist sprays kept us cool and there was actually quite a lot of shade on the course from the tall buildings. I’m used to mile markers and found that the kilometres just sped past. As usual there were some great supporter signs My favourite said “Football isn’t coming home but you soon will be” which was just what I needed to see with a couple of kilometres to go.
Zoe realised we’d come in just under the hour if we sprinted to the line so bar getting a little caught behind a couple of runners, we did just that, raising our arms in celebration as we crossed the finish. Finishing for ourselves, for women who didn’t run and for women who can’t.
Post race celebrations with the team involved a very British cup of tea for me! The medal and goody bag were great and I love the finishers T-shirt, which actually fits me for a change!
On the train home back to Lancaster I was chatting to the man next to me who said, “That’s a long way to go for a 10k”. He’s right, it was, but this was no ordinary 10k and my memories of it will last for a long time. Running for a cause that means so much to you, alongside others who feel the same, makes all the difference. Thank you to Virgin Sport and to UNWomenUK for inviting me and making it such a memorable experience. I hope I can join you again sometime.
If you’d like to donate to the #Westminster100 team and support the work of UNWomen you can do so here
Photo credits: Virgin Sport. Dr Zoe Williams. drjulietmcgrattan.com